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CSOs Task Parliament on Gender Inclusive Land Reform Laws

The CSOs argue that the gender differences in Uganda’s land tenure systems continue to undermine increased land productivity, provision of affordable housing, and promotion of equitable resource management as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal – SDG 1.
09 Dec 2021 14:12
Women and children displaced by the deadly Pawel village land conflcit in Amuru District. Photo by Dominic Ochola

Audio 4

Representatives of the Civil Society Organizations – CSOs have asked Parliament to enact pro-people land reform laws to address gender and land rights gaps in the country.

They argue that the gender differences in Uganda’s land tenure systems continue to undermine increased land productivity, provision of affordable housing, and promotion of equitable resource management as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal – SDG 1.

Rehema Bavuma, the Country Coordinator of Fian Uganda, a research and advocacy group in Kampala says that the debates on customary and mailo land tenure systems remain contentious and the proposed land reforms threaten the citizens.

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Eron Kiiza, a human rights lawyer and the Chief Executive Officer of The Environment Shield observed that there are big investment players in the country who are currently using their influence to meddle in land management affairs. He cited the ongoing Bugoma forest land battle in Hoima, Kiryandongo sugar project, and the struggle for ownership of land hosting gold mineral deposits in Bukedea District among others.

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Edward Mwebaze, the Deputy Executive Director of Oxfam Uganda notes that in 2019, they undertook a study revealing that land remains a driver of inequality in Uganda that relates to especially governance and administration.

He added that in 2021, they also undertook another study that underpinned different cultural practices and norms in the country that undermines ownership and control of land by women and young people.

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The Government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development has formulated a national land policy to provide a framework for articulating the role of land in national development, land ownership, distribution, utilization, alienability, management, and control of the land but weak enforcement mechanisms have been blamed.

Mwebaze revealed that in their findings, they also made recommendations for proper land tenure policy frameworks in Uganda that explicitly address gender-inclusive access to land to harness equitable resource utilization to spur meaningful socio-economic development.

However, Flavia Kabahenda Rwabuhoro, a member of the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament and the Publicity Secretary for the Parliamentary Alliance on Nutritional and Food Security rallied the CSOs to write motions, petitions, and position papers to shape legislation.

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Kabahenda, the Kyegegwa District Woman Representative disclosed that while the land is a major factor in all development aspects, several other barriers hinder women’s land rights that call for more awareness creation.

The Constitution (Section 237(1), the Land Act of 1998 Cap 227 states that “Land in Uganda belongs to the citizens of Uganda. With more than 80% of the population rural and directly deriving livelihoods through subsistence agriculture, land access, ownership and use are core to economic, social, and environmental drivers.

A 2013 report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics - UBOS, only 28% of women own land, a clear indication of gender disparity in land ownership, use, and control that consequently hinders women’s participation in agricultural production, leading to poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition in the country.

In 2018, the World Bank Group report revealed that the gender gap affects the land rights of women, and their ability to undertake business ventures. It further constrains women’s other property rights given the pluralistic nature of the legal regimes.